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Great expectations – on grant income targets in Life Sciences

Published: 23rd Nov, 2018

Message sent to all Leicester UCU members, 22 November.

Over the past few weeks, several UCU members in the College of Life Sciences have expressed concerns over plans to introduce ‘targets’ or ‘expectations’ of academic staff, including level of grant income. In case anyone needs reminding, the use of such a metric as a performance target is highly contentious and arguably was a factor in the tragic case of Stefan Grimm, a professor at Imperial College, who took his own life in 2015.

Earlier this week, Leicester UCU raised these concerns in a meeting with Professor Phil Baker (Head of College) and a representative from the University’s Human Resources department. We learned that the College Leadership Team has been tasked by University Leadership Team with trying to find a way to set ‘thresholds of expectation’ for staff. Draft ideas, which included the grant-income target proposal, were circulated to some staff, but we were assured that these were only ever drafts and have been dismissed as unworkable as they currently stand. When we pointed out the many issues with these targets or thresholds, we were told that the task had proved much harder to do than anyone had ever anticipated.

This College Leadership Team is currently brainstorming ideas further, and has assured us that Leicester UCU will be involved in the next stages. However, at this stage it is unclear how far the idea will progress at all. Apparently Professor Baker is not ‘wedded to the idea’; if it proves unfeasible (whatever that means), it will not be pursued.

In the meantime, if you have any concerns please contact the committee or your departmental representative.